DOLLAR GENERAL FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS NOT KIND TO JFR
CHARLOTTE, NC —- The day after an explosion launched his Auto Club Mustang carbon fiber body onto a walkway adjacent to the zMax Dragway, the defending event champion was unceremoniously bounced out of the race in the second round. Luckily no spectators were seriously injured on Saturday and today Hight actually moved up in the Mello Yello point standings.
In the opening session of the 4th annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Hight pulled into lane four, the same lane he was in during the final qualifying session. He blazed down the track without incident posting an elapsed time of 4.113 seconds which was second quickest of his quad. Just behind No. 1 qualifier Chad Head. In an ironic turn of events the No. 1 and No. 16 qualifiers moved on to the second round.
Hight was joined in the second round with Head, fellow Ford Racing teammate Tim Wilkerson and Cruz Pedregon. When the Christmas Tree lit up Hight mashed the throttle and his Auto Club Mustang smoked the tires about one second later. Hight was forced to pedal his race car as Wilkerson cruised down the race track and Head fought with his Funny Car to maintain control. Head was able to secure the second place finish in the quad ahead of Pedregon and Hight.
“I want to thank my crew guys for giving me a good race car today. We made a great run in the first round. Yesterday was a tough day and I am so glad everything worked out the way it did. You never want to have an incident like that but like I said yesterday we will investigate the problem and see how we can possibly fix it. I am ready to get back to the track. We’ll be ready for Houston and we’ll be running the AAA Texas Ford Mustang.”
Heading to Houston for the 26th annual O’Reilly Spring Nationals Hight will be No. 6 in the Mello Yello point standings, a one spot improvement.
While Hight was advancing to the second round team leader John Force just missed joining his teammate. Force’s first round upset was the first time the 2010 Dollar General Four-Wide winner has lost in the opening session under the four-wide format. As the No. 2 qualifier Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang team had the first pick of lanes and chose the favorable second lane. Force launched hard but at about mid-track his Castrol GTX Funny Car shook the tires loose and Bob Tasca III and upstart driver Blake Alexander took the win lights and advanced to the second round.
The 15-time Funny Car champion was disappointed with his performance on race day and vowed to make immediate changes to improve his performance.
“Weather caught us since we only got two runs. Everybody only got two runs. We did get everybody qualified. I’ll head back to Indy tomorrow morning. We are going to make some changes on this Castrol GTX Mustang to make it fit me a little better. I don’t fit in it right and that doesn’t help the driver. We will get ready for Houston. It is good to be back to back, you get in the groove,” said Force.
Sunday was also a tough day for Mello Yello points leader Courtney Force. The driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang was defeated in the first round for just the second time this season. Like all the drivers who did not meet expectation the truncated qualifying sessions contributed to on track struggles and the unique four-wide format.
“We only got two out the four runs during qualifying. I wish I would’ve gotten a little more practice out there before the race began, but it was an equal playing field because all of us (in Funny Car) only got two qualifying passes,” said the 2012 Rookie of the Year.
“Going up for round one, we had third pick of the lanes. We couldn’t get our car down there and unfortunately didn’t get the win. We slipped a little in the points and lost the points lead. I think if we would have had those two extra qualifying laps we could have done a lot better,” said Force.
“I think I struggled a little as a driver today and I wish I would have done better to get that win, but you know, we just have to keep our heads held high and move on. We go to Houston next and I’m excited to see what we can do there. Ron Douglas can tune this race car, we just gotta put this race behind us.”
Rookie of the Year contender Brittany Force had her most consistent weekend behind the wheel of the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster. She made two qualifying runs due to the shortened schedule due to rain in the 3.83s and then in the first round she posted another 3.83 second run. It was not enough for the No. 9 qualifier to advance around the No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon and No. 8 qualifier Tony Schumacher.
Force was pleased with the consistency and excited to back on the race track in a few days. She was also glad she got some timely advice from her father.
“For me four wide is still very new. Getting up there and getting staged is a little tricky and today was only the third time I have done it. It got a little tricky when (rookie Sidnei) Frigo broke in lane four. The officials were showing me three fingers and it is a good thing my dad had already told me to have a plan with my team in case something weird happened. I remember thinking I am not going to worry about that but we did talk about some signals so we could communicate,” said Force.
“There wasn’t a problem and I was happy about that. We had a really consistent race car and the bad thing is we only got two qualifying runs. We ran 3.836 in the first round and we had been running 3.83s all weekend. We have a tunable race car which is good.”
“I think back to back racing is helpful for the driver and the team. I get more comfortable in the car and with staging. Now we will go back to normal with only two cars at a time. I can work on my normal routine. The Four Wide is definitely fun and exciting but I wish I would have had a little more time to get used to it,” added Force.